Bandwagoning Baseball’s Finality

Has your favorite baseball team been eliminated from post-season play? Do you remain reluctant to dive headfirst into football 24/7? Are you willing to set aside your normal allegiance for the next month and a half and bandwagon a contender for the sake of shit-talking and a possible faux championship?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, or preferably to all three, then it’s time for you to hop on the shoulders of a more successful fanbase a la Carlos Mencia’s “comedy” routine (yes, I just Mencia’d a Mencia joke). EJSIC is here to rank the possible teams on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being fully bandwagon-worthy, 1 meaning we’d rather root for Hitler.

Let’s start with the American League and work our way through the pennant chasers there before exploring the National League.

Note: the author of this post is anti-DH, but in the interest of fairness will attempt to reasonably grade the AL teams instead of giving all of them the 1 they so deserve.

American League

1. New York Yankees: THE EVIL EMPIRE! That should be enough for you to realize that only intolerable douches and fans of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers, and Duke Blue Devils (sorry, repetitive) “root” for these guys. Seriously, they’ve won more Fall Classics in baseball history than any other team. They also possess the deepest wallet, the NY superiority belief, and include Cleveland native LeBron James as a fan. Do NOT bandwagon under any circumstance. Score – 1

2. Boston Red Sox: The Sox are 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the East crown, but with a comfy 6.5 games up in the Wild Card they’re virtually in. This is the same franchise that defeated an eight-decade curse with two World Series titles since 2004. And when the core of that team aged too much, they went out and splashed Yankee-esque money this off-season. While I find them more root-worthy than their arch-rivals, there’s no need to really bandwagon them for their fans have been treated to championships in all four major sports this decade. Score – 2

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

3. Detroit Tigers: Detroit has slowly put the AL Central away over the second half of the season. Aside from playing in a collapsing shit-hole of a city, what’s not to like? They have a chain-smoking manager who puffs during games, an ace pitcher who could seemingly throw a no-hitter each time out, and an alcoholic first baseman. Sounds like a recipe for bandwagon awesomeness to me. The only downside? They’re in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox so a championship is unlikely to come this season. Regardless, you’ll have a good time. Score – 8

4. Texas Rangers: The defending AL Champs refueled after losing ace Cliff Lee to free agency, and yet they’re right here again. If you like offensive baseball, the Rangers are your team. They’ve crossed home 737 times this season, third best in baseball behind the Yankees and Sox. They also maintain a relatively unknown squad. Some guys (like Michael Young and Josh Hamilton) are known nationally, but many of their better players have yet to receive a lot of national pub (Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz). So if your choice is the Rangers, it would help to do some research and not unveil yourself as a bandwagoner within the first five minutes. Score – 7

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Really, these guys should get a one for having the worst name in baseball. Pick a damn city. I could also give them a one for the owner complaining after whiffing on free agent Carl Crawford this season despite the fact that the Angels have plenty of money themselves. You lost out to a better organization, STFU and get over it. However, the Angels assumed an underdog role this season winning ball games with great pitching. Their offensively challenged team has scored 586 runs to date, the worst of any AL challengers. They’re also 2.5 games back of the Rangers so they have some work to do. Score – 4 Continue reading

Michael Street’s Musings

I’ve been dying to write an entry here at EJSIC for a few weeks now, but learning how to file frivolous lawsuits law school is extremely time-consuming. Anyway, here are some things floating around in my subconscious.

1. MLB Instant Replay – I’ve been against instant replay for a while now. I defended the “human element” in the summer when Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga lost a perfect game thanks to umpire error (I now feel like an idiot for that). The playoffs have only shown us more problems, unfortunately. The Division Series in each league was dominated by questionable and costly umpire calls.

The LCS has not fared much better. Hell, the Yankees can basically determine when they are hit by a pitch and when they are not. It’s not going away, so it’s time for MLB to do what it does best: correct the problem after it has become a problem.

I still do not believe instant replay needs to be involved with every close play. Umpires have been making calls on bang-bang plays for nearly 150 years. There’s no need to review every single call.

How many umps does it take to screw up a call?

Instead, MLB should implement a rule stating: on every play which involves a significant scoring opportunity, instant replay is a viable option for determining the correct call.

I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell does ‘significant opportunity’ mean?” And that’s a great question. It means: a play in which a run may score (depending on the call), a run does score, or the potential to score runs is set up.

And all of those possibilities make it seem like a lot, but it would also be limited. There should never be an opportunity to replay a stolen base attempt (Buster Posey in the NLDS), a check swing or called / uncalled strike (Michael Young ALDS), or any play that is considered “routine” in the umpire’s job.

This rule leaves the ump’s with some discretion. If they need help, then they should be free to consult the technology.

If I haven’t converted you yet (which is a fair stance), I’ll be discussing this topic in a later (perhaps as long as a month from now) entry. It’s time to move on, though.

2. The NFL’s crackdown on head-hunting – It’s about time, honestly. It’s also important to point out that ESPN’s Mark Schlereth correctly called the NFL hypocritical this week on SportsCenter when he blasted the organization for promoting the violence of the game for years until now.

He’s right, but the NFL’s right, too. The NFL sold this violence for years. And now they want to stop the players from pursuing the most-violent hits. Their stance fits the very definition of a hypocrite. Yet, the NFL is 100% correct on the issue.

Get used to this image about 15 times a game now.

And the reason they’re correct is that they are being proactive, something my beloved baseball knows nothing about. It’s my opinion that a player will die on the field in an NFL game sometime in the future. The game is too violent, at times, for it to not happen.

But when that moment does occur, the NFL will be ready. They’re laying the groundwork for the arguments now. By fining and suspending players for vicious hits, they’ll be able to say one day, “Dear Congressional committee, we did everything in our power to limit the violence of the game. We fined players thousands of dollars for performing the hits we told them not to, and then suspended them without pay.”

That’s exactly what the NFL will be saying in front of a Congressional committee in X years. And, again, they’ll be correct. Then the Congress members and the NFL’s executives will all share a laugh about it at a dinner later that night. But whatever happens behind the scenes, the NFL will protect itself.

3. Marijuana soda, a liquid high – Dixie Elixirs (based in Colorado, the long last sister of the Confederacy) manufactures a soda from medical marijuana that gives the user a high while drinking. And better yet, it comes seven great flavors: lemonade, sweet tea, pink lemonade, strawberry, orange, grape, and root beer.

It doesn’t sound too appeasing to me, but if you want to try some, hit up their website.

4. The Wayne Rooney weirdness – English footballer Wayne Rooney has had a tough time as of late. He stunk it up in South Africa this past summer, he’s played horribly for Manchester United this season, his injured ankle has yet to fully heal, and the British media busted him for soliciting a prostitute (something he’s done before, but vowed to have stopped). Oh yeah, his wife’s prego with their child which factored into the media and public backlash.

How many prostitutes can 350,000 GBP a week buy?

And in the midst of all that, his club, Man U, is battling bankruptcy problems which prompted the 24 year old England star to publicly declare that he would be leaving the club at the expiration of his contract (end of 2012 season). Media members immediately speculated that he could be out of Manchester during the January transfer period with the possible destinations being cross-town rivals Manchester City, London dwellers Chelsea, or Spanish giants Real Madrid.

All of that speculation went to waste when Rooney, out of nowhere, signed a new 5 year deal with United Friday morning. So he’s good and recommitted to the club, according to club officials. With his new deal, I bet he can find a few higher end prostitutes to keep him satisfied while his wife deals with that whole pregnancy thing.

MLB Round-Up Post Trade Deadline and a Day Late Edition

MLB Round-Up’s reserved Monday posting was delayed by an 8 hour car ride. It’s amazing how much energy that can take out of a person. Anyway, we’re back and ready to give out awards.

Team of the Week

American League – Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa Bay hit a minor speed-bump in an otherwise healthy season around mid-June which allowed the Yankees to control the AL East for about a month. However, the Rays continued playing, made a few moves at the deadline, and now find themselves tied with the Yankees. Can you see exciting race to the end?

National League – San Francisco Giants. I admit it. I thought this team did not have enough offense to win the division. And they may not as there is plenty of time left for them to fade away like the last few seasons. Regardless, the Giants are winning now. They’re keeping withing striking distance of first place San Diego.

Position Player of the Week

American League – Jose Bautista (Toronto). Bautista leads MLB in home runs and he’s never hit more than 16 in a season until now. And this past week, he batted .500 and smashed 4 more homers with 12 RBIs. It’s also easy to see that Bautista leaves Toronto at the end of the season as a free agent, some mid-level team gives him a bunch of money ($60-80 million), and he returns to normal next season. Happens all the time.

National League – Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado). The Rockie outfielder batted .520 with a slugging percentage 1.160. Gonzalez also scored 9 runs and collected 29 total bases. Can the Rockies ever mount a serious push though?

Pitcher of the Week

American League – Trevor Cahill (Oakland). 2 starts, 2 wins, 17 (out of 18 possible) innings pitched, a complete game shutout, and no runs (earned or otherwise) allowed. Ladies and gentleman, Trevor Cahill.

National League – Tim Hudson (Atlanta). The Braves needed a stopper during their recent road struggles, and ace Tim Hudson did just that. In 2 starts, he won twice, gave up 2 earned runs, posted a 1.32 ERA, and pitched 13.2 innings.

MLB Round-Up Trade Deadline Bonanza Edition

The magical (and sometimes sleepless depending upon your viewpoint) non-waiver trade deadline is 5 days away for Major League Baseball. A few moves have been made (most notably pitchers Cliff Lee and Dan Haren), but the real flurries will begin around Friday and go throughout the day and night.

Team of the Week

American League – Minnesota Twins. In a week when no team truly stood out, the Twins have pulled out 7 wins in their last 10 games and have seemed to recapture some momentum after a mid-season stumble. They are notorious for furious finishes and could be buyers at the trade deadline which would be against their recent trends.

National League – San Francisco Giants. The one team with more than enough pitching seems to have hit its stride as of late. The Giants have won 4 straight, cut the gap from first place to 3 games, and have an awakening offense.

Position Player of the Week

American League – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit). I’m not sure how many times I’ve given this award to Miggy, but he could probably win it every week. A legitimate triple crown candidate, the Detroit first baseman blasted 2 homers, 6 doubles, drove in 9 runs, batted .500, slugged .929, and reached base 51% of the time. Then again, that’s just another week in the life of Miguel Cabrera.

National League – Jason Heyward (Atlanta). The 20 year old rookie phenom is also no stranger to this award, but he has rebounded from a June slump partially induced by an inflamed thumb. The young man batted .535 last week while also totaling 5 walks. His .613 on-base percentage shows his maturation at a young age.

Pitcher of the Week

American League – Wade Davis (Tampa Bay). The weekly awards are full of rookies this week with Heyward and now Davis. 14.1 innings pitched, 2 wins, 2 walks total, and a 1.88 ERA were Davis’ numbers for the week. David Price, Matt Garza, and Wade Davis are one helluva future trio for the Rays.

National League – Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati). In 2 starts this week, the Reds pitcher threw 14 innings, struck out 10, and recorded a 1.29 ERA. Cincinnati will need their young pitcher for the stretch runs against the Cardinals.

MLB Round-Up and Look Ahead 4/19 edition

Major League Baseball is entering the third week of the long regular season and we begin this week’s post by looking back over the first two weeks as well as looking forward to the next 7 days.

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Ubaldo Jimenez

Looking back

1. Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves (I called Jimenez a Cy Young candidate in the NL West preview, so I now pat myself on the back). The Dominican native is a long, lanky pitcher who throws hard. His fastball can top 100 while he consistently hits above 95. He even throws an off-speed breaking ball at 89. That’s faster than a lot of fastballs. Kudos to Jimenez on his historic night. He should be in line to pitch again Thursday against the Nationals.

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Nelson Cruz

2. Jason Heyward was named the number one prospect in all of baseball by numerous publications this off-season. He has not disappointed after two weeks either. Through twelve games his stat line is as follows: .302 avg, .423 OBP, .581 SLG, 1.004 OPS, 3 HRs, 15 RBIs, and 9 walks. His only bad stat is 16 strike outs, but what else can you expect from a 20 year old in the majors?

3. Nelson Cruz is off to a great start for the Texas Rangers. An All-Star from last season, Cruz is still gaining notoriety around the nation. He leads MLB with 7 homers and is tied for second with 15 RBIs (one behind the leader). Texas will be, once again, relying on the offense to carry the team and Cruz playing this well makes them even more dangerous.

Looking Forward

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Terry Francona needs to turn his team around

1. The NL East leading Phillies travel to Atlanta for a 3 game series beginning on Tuesday. It’s very early to talk about divisional races, but one of the reasons Atlanta’s hot second half in 2009 did not produce a playoff spot was the fact that they found themselves so far back of Philadelphia. The Braves will be pitching three of their best in Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and then Derek Lowe while the Phils counter with Kyle Kendrick, undetermined, and (most likely) Roy Halladay.

2. The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a horrible start to the season. Boston is 4-9 and all ready find themselves 6 games back of the division leading Rays after 13 games. Jon Lester has yet to pitch effectively. In 16 innings pitched, he has an ERA of 8.44. The Sox host the Rangers beginning on Tuesday.

3. Two series look promising for the weekend games. In the American League, a rematch of last season’s ALCS will take place with the Bronx Bombers visiting the Angels. In the National League, St. Louis travels to the left coast to play the Giants. The four teams have all gotten off to relatively good starts, some better than others.

Baseball quote of the week: “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.” – Bill Veeck, 1976.

Two Questions: NL West

EJSIC’s MLB preview has visited 5 of the 6 divisions and today, we drop in on the last one, the National League West.

Arizona Diamondbacks
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1. Do the Dbacks have the pitching needed to contend in the division? If you think about the NL West the past few divisions, it has been filled with great pitching. It will have it again this season. The Diamondbacks were lead by Dan Haren last season, but the organization is looking to surround him with more. Former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb will return at some point this season, but it remains to be seen how effective he will be after starting on the DL. Arizona also traded for AL All-Star Edwin Jackson (from Detroit) and Ian Kennedy (from New York) to help Haren.

2. Can Adam Laroche add protection for Mark Reynolds in the lineup? Reynolds lead the team home runs, runs scored, RBIs, and stolen bases last season which landed him a spot on the NL All-Star team. Now, Arizona has added the left-handed first baseman Laroche who has hit at least 20 homers in each of the past 5 seasons. Laroche will provide some protection in the lineup, but to expect him to change the dynamic of their offense is too much.

Colorado Rockies
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1. Can the Rockies keep their momentum from last season? In baseball, it is difficult to keep the chemistry and pace from one season to the next. The Rockies were unbelievable after firing manager Clint Hurdle and replacing him with Jim Tracy. After June 3, Tracy led the team on an unbelievable streak in which the Rockies were 9 games better than any other NL team. Can they recreate that magic and win the division?

2. Is Ubaldo Jimenez a Cy Young candidate? Jimenez has ascended to the role of ace in the Rockies organization. He has all of the tools including a fastball in the upper 90s as well as nasty breaking pitches. He’s entering the prime of his career and is poised to become a household name across the country.

Los Angeles Dodgers
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1. Do the Dodgers get 2008 Manny or 2009 version? When the Dodgers acquired Manny from the Red Sox in 2008, he was a monster in the two month stretch run. He started hot in 2009, but was never the same after his 50 game suspension. He’s in the last season of his contract with Los Angeles and has already publicly stated he will not be back in 2011. Does Manny return to his old form and help the Dodgers win the division for a third straight season or is the 38 year old slugger finally reaching the downside of his career?

2. Does LA have enough starting pitching to win? Randy Wolf was allowed to leave via free agency this season which leaves the Dodgers with questions of rotational depth. The young Clayton Kershaw will be the ace, but after him is four question marks: Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, and Ramon Ortiz. The Dodgers pitching could be really good or really bad.

San Diego Padres
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1. Will Adrian Gonzalez be traded? Gonzalez’s name has been circulated in trade rumors since the beginning of last season. It only makes sense that he will eventually leave San Diego as the organization has undergone a full youth movement. And every team in need of a bat for a playoff run will be calling.

2. How bad will it get? In a rebuilding franchise, it often gets worst before it gets better. The Padres no longer have ace Jake Peavy after a mid-season trade to the White Sox which leaves their starting rotation with five unknowns. Couple the pitching mess with the 29th best offense from a year ago and the Padres are in for a long season.

San Francisco Giants
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1. Do they have enough offense? Baseball writers and pundits have been asking the same question for the past few seasons. The offense improved last season with the help of Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval, but it still was not enough. The front office brought in veterans Mark Derosa and Aubrey Huff to bolster the lineup, but it still may not be enough with the offenses of the Dodgers and Rockies in the division.

2. Is the starting rotation the best in baseball? Everyone knows what Tim Lincecum can do after winning consecutive Cy Young awards. Matt Cain was terrific last season as the number two starter. Even Mr. 100 Million Dollars Barry Zito regained some of his former self. If Zito recaptures the way he pitched at the end of 2009 and Jonathan Sanchez gains consistency, the Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.